Friday, November 21, 2008

A letter to Obama

In the past week a moving letter, written by the well known American author, Alice Walker, to the newly elected president of the USA, Barak Obama, was circulated via the internet. As a fellow black American, she applauds and congratulates him on his historic achievement of becoming the first black president of the Unites States. Then she goes on to remind him of some unconventional responsibilities which, to her mind, are now crucial for his presidency.

For a start, she reminds him that he should not forget to cultivate happiness in his own life. In this regard she points to the need to make a schedule that permits sufficient time for rest and play, not only for himself, but also with his remarkable wife and lovely daughters. This will counter the tremendous stress of their lives and promote the kind of joy and happiness required to fulfil such a high public position competently. In her words: “We are used to seeing men in the White House become juiceless and as white haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained…This is no way to lead …Finally it is the soul that must be preserved if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to the earth, peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies.”

A second piece of advice that she offers Obama is on how to deal with his enemies. In this regard she quite movingly reminds him not to take on other people’s enemies. In fact, she says, “Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us…We must actually learn not to have enemies but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disquise.” Quoting her devout mother who often admonished her to hate sin, but love the sinner, she continues: “There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people’s spirit. This has already happened to people of colour, poor people, woman, children. We see where this leads, where it has lead.”

Reading through Alice Walker’s letter it becomes clear that her plea to Obama is nothing less than an urgent invitation for him to nurture his spirituality. One realises how little we see of this in political leaders and what a difference it would make if such prominently placed people, so prone to power play and empty glamour, were to heed to this call. Truly if this happens, we may also speak the language of hope and selfempowerment - like Walker when she concludes her letter: “We are the ones we have been waiting for. In peace and joy, Alice Walker.”

Carel Anthonissen

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